by Maria Lianos-Carbone

Hockey season is over!


Considering the season began last September and hockey took up every weekend morning, it’s a bit of a relief that the season has ended for the spring and summer.

My son’s hockey team played a good season. But they did come out tied last place with another team.

Yet every member of the team (they’re seven years old) received this:

I thought it was nice but I was left wondering why each player had to bring home a trophy.  It’s nice to get rewarded for playing the season but I should the losing teams and players all receive a trophy?

What is this teaching our kids?  Is this setting our kids up for failure when in the real world, not everyone will get a trophy?

I worry that this sends the wrong message to kids that they will be rewarded for just showing up and playing the game, whether they win or lose.  I wonder if this will only add to the entitled attitude that kids seem to have these days.

It also takes away the prestige of receiving a “real” trophy and downplays the hard work involved in winning the trophy for real.  Sure we feel bad if our kids are left out because they didn’t receive a trophy at the end of the year.  But kids are smarter than that – they know they lost, they probably wonder why they even received a trophy if they didn’t win.

I think it’s be a much more effective lesson to teach kids about winning and losing, working hard next time, earning the win and putting in the extra effort the next time.  It’s an opportunity to show our kids how to be a ‘good loser’ and to be humble about winning.

I think trophies should only be awarded to the winner or just the winning team. In the real world, not everyone gets the winning prize – only the best of the best who worked hard will receive it.  If you don’t win, it’s a good lesson. Disappointment is a part of life and kids need to learn how to handle disappointment.

The hope is that losing will motivate kids to try harder and do better next time. Like adults, kids can begin learning about setting goals and understanding that they need to work hard to attain them.

I asked my kids what they think:  my five year old thinks that only the winning team should win trophies.  But my seven year old thinks everyone should get a trophy “because it’s fair”.

What do you think?


Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.


  1. I’m not a fan of participation trophies. Kids know when they, and their teams, have done a great job deserving of a prize. The ‘just because’ trophies do nothing to encourage them. The ones mine have proudly on display are the earned ones. The others are packed away and many have been donated.

  2. I have felt this way for years Maria – such a waste of wood/gold plastic as well. Teaches kids nothing. I say if they WIN they get a ribbon. I’ve not gone to closing season ceremonies just to avoid getting another trophy. I have two kids who play hockey/soccer and they have tons of “thanks for showing up” trophies. My other two don’t (individual sports for them), and they have none. Don’t like the message.

  3. I totally agree with your younger son. In real life, some people get the trophy (eg. job promotion, raise, etc, and some people don’t). When everyone gets the prize, its not a competition. I feel like we are over praising the children and not teaching about the lumps of life.

  4. Dianne / Smilenwaven Reply

    Agree!! It doesn’t prepare them much for the real world – when not everyone get the same!!

  5. The fact that every kid gets a trophy for showing up is sending the wrong message to kids. It’s telling them that no matter how hard or how little you work for something, you will be rewarded. It’s teaching them that competition doesn’t matter. It’s saying that everyone is special and everyone deserves recognition. I believe that this is becoming very damaging. Installing that sense of drive, focus and competition is important in life. The world beyond elementary school doesn’t give out participation trophies.

    • Exactly! How will this prepare them for the real world? Kids need to learn that they have to work hard to earn a reward.

  6. I agree with everyone, participation trophies send the wrong message, waste resources and give the kids this idea that just showing may be rewarded.

  7. When did this whole showing up trophy thing start? I was a comp gymnast as a kid and only brought home a trophy if we won BIG. Winning usually meant a ribbon. Which was exciting, for me and the club, because it really meant something. Accomplishment. Hard work rewarded. Kids need to learn to lose, with grace. They need to learn what it feels like to taste victory. And they need to understand you don’t get a medal because you showed up. Just doesn’t make sense to me. Isn’t going to help them in the long run, that’s for sure. Getting a chance to play is “fair” – only one person/team can win.

    • I remember the ribbons too when I was a kid. I also remember really wanting to win the trophy next time… so, I worked harder, practiced more! Makes sense 🙂

  8. I also completely agree with you. I do find it interesting that all the comments support the ‘only for winners’ view, yet virtually all sports programs ignore this and go ahead with trophies for all anyway. Do we have a responsibly to let our organized sports programs know that this is not ok? If we want change, we need to ask for it.

  9. OK..I will be the one person who actually likes kids being given something for participating..although I do NOT think it should be a trophy and should definitely not be the same thing that the winner is awarded.

    I think that kids up to a certain age…maybe 10 years old, still like the idea of walking away from a competition with “something”, especially if it’s an individual sport (easier to walk away with nothing if everyone on your team is too)

    I see nothing wrong with the winners getting trophies and the other kids getting little medals to say, “Thanks for participating”. A little encouragement goes a long way for some kids and if a small token of appreciation will keep them coming back, then why not?

    Again, there should DEFINITELY be a difference between what the winners are awarded and what everyone else gets or the winners will not feel that their hard work and skill means much…but I don’t believe that we’re “harming” our kids or setting them up for a lifetime of unrealistic expectations when we pat each kid on the back.

    • Thanks Marci for commenting. I was waiting to see if there was anyone supporting the handing out of trophies. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Yes! Being an athlete, I fully support the idea of participation trophies! I remember the good feeling when I was first starting to play, and from then on! I have seen many players with potential go to waste because they think they suck! What has happened to society?

  10. Ok..I’m gonna say something else, even though I know I stand alone on this issue (but I’m tough, I can take it) :o)

    There is so much talk today about kids not getting enough physical activity. While some kids love to participate in sports, there are others who don’t feel that they’re good enough and it can be tough to encourage them to try. By giving out a token ribbon type of thing, the competitive kids will know it’s not the one they want and will keep their eyes on the bigger prize, but there are a lot of other kids who may walk away feeling like they’ve accomplished something and that may be enough to keep them in the game Do we NEED to give out Participation ribbons? No. But do I think that doing so is “Harmful” to them? In the grand scheme of things..Nope.

    • Ribbons are better than a trophy! The trophy should be saved for the winner, you know?

  11. I asked my son and daughter 24+ about the trophy ribbon thing and they said it was a waste of time if they received anything for being a participant, “Everyone knows who won first place.” When asked what was encouraging they said, “introducing them to new things without a huge commitment”, “pushing them to keep commitments they did make”, being a parental presence at events, but NOT waving unless waved to, the big one was letting them change from competitive ski racing to freestyle ski racing. It will be interesting to see what happens as one is now parenting a five year old.

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